All eyes were on Camp Nou. All eyes were on David Alaba. All eyes were on Lucas Vazuqez. All eyes were on El Clasico. But those who only paid attention to events in Barcelona missed the real winners of the weekend – Real Sociedad.
Real Madrid got a crucial three points, there can be no debating that. But they never got out of first gear. A goal on the counter, against the run of play, sitting deep. Another strike on the counter. And back to defending for the final few minutes.
The Madrid that we saw at Camp Nou was not the brave, exciting or offensive Madrid that Carlo Ancelotti promised and usually delivers. His team selection was daring, with both Rodrygo and Lucas Vazquez on the right, but his tactics were not so adventurous.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadrid) October 24, 2021
Key men failed to produce. Karim Benzema was clearly unfit, and while Vinicius Junior was electric at times he failed to create any clear-cut chances. Add in a tired and ageing midfield and Madrid looked stodgy, slow, and quite simply mediocre. They did what was required to win El Clasico. But they did not do so in style.
Turn your attention to Madrid, ironically back in Los Blancos’ home town, and you’ll find La Real, who travelled to face Atletico Madrid. Imanol Alguacil did not hold back. He selected Alexander Isak and Alexander Sorloth in a young and offensive side, even though his team was depleted by injuries which stole him of his star man, Mikel Oyarzabal. Even sitting on top of the league, Imanol was prepared to gamble.
La Real came roaring out of the blocks with an intensity and a purpose that could not be seen at Camp Nou. Nor could it be seen from the reigning champions in the opposing half of the Wanda Metropolitano. With a side featuring only three players over the age of 26, the energetic buzz of youth was there in abundance.
Atletico mounted a second half comeback to seal a point and rob La Real of the win, but this was a promising display from the Basque side. In reality, it is worth more than just a point. This was La Real going to face one of La Liga’s big boys in their own backyard and putting up a fight. This was La Real putting themselves forward as a candidate not only for the top four, but for the title.
— Real Sociedad Fútbol (@RealSociedad) October 24, 2021
Having started last season in a similar fashion, their early promise faded as they suffered defeats to Barcelona, Atletico and Sevilla over Christmas. This time around, La Real have made it clear that they won’t give in so easily.
With several key players, such as Oyarzabal, Asier Illarramendi, Jon Guridi, Nacho Monreal, Diego Rico and Carlos Fernandez all out injured, there is reason to believe that Imanol’s side will improve. If a side not at their best can almost shock La Liga’s reigning champions, it’s a statement.
El Clasico weekend came to a close with a statement of intent from an outsider. It came with a declaration that La Real are here to compete.